Monday, 2 February 2015

Let's get physical, urge education experts

From Big Issue in the North magazine issued dated Jan 26 - 1 Feb 2015. Please buy a copy when you see a seller. 
Government plans to radically alter the teaching of PE in secondary schools should
be scrapped, according
to a headteacher and an experienced sports organiser, who both fear the latest changes indicate an increasingly bleak future for school sport.
Currently the assessment in GCSE PE is 60 per cent practical and 40 per cent theory.
From 2016 ministers want to reduce the practical element to 30 per cent. The increased theory element, they argue, will “place greater emphasis on students’ understanding of the physical, scientific and socio- cultural factors that can impact on physical performance”.
Tony Gavin, head teacher at Laurence Jackson School in Guisborough, North Yorkshire, believes the outcome will be radical. “I estimate once students realise it is mainly theory then there will be a 50 per cent reduction in the 250 currently doing GCSE PE,” he said. “Sadly, practically motivated and less academically able children are being hit hard as many schools have also cut art, drama and music lessons. There are also ever- increasing standards required to obtain BTEC qualifications
in vocational subjects and which are consequently seeing students dropping them.
Children’s health
“Sports-wise the changes deal a further blow to a subject increasingly marginalised within schools where funding is tied to academic achievements. I know that in some schools, PE may be listed on the timetable but can be cancelled as schools prioritise English and mathematics.”
Alan Walsh, a governor at a London primary school who runs school sports projects, shares Gavin’s concerns.
“A decade ago, PE was a priority as it was recognised that it stimulated intellectual capacity and addressed health and obesity agendas,” he said. “There was a five-hour weekly target of two hours in school, two hours after school and one- hour engagement at the likes of the local swimming baths.
“Where I am a governor and PE sport lead only 90 minutes is allocated to PE. Governors elsewhere tell me the subject is being cut back in secondary schools. This cannot be good for children’s health.”
Both Gavin and Walsh want the government to retain PE GCSE in its current format.
Pressure group 38 Degrees has drawn up a petition proposing that “at least 50 per cent should be practically assessed”.
A spokesperson for the Department for Education (DfE) defended the changes, stating: “GCSEs need to be robust to match the best education systems in the world and to keep pace with universities’ and employers’ demands.”

The spokesperson claimed primary school pupils spend 122 minutes doing PE each week and that the subject remains compulsory for all ages but with an “increasing focus on competitive sport in our new world class curriculum”.

Stop press - the Government has announced that the practical element of GCSE PE will now be 40 per cent. 

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